Paper's Refusal to Print Ad Sparked Civil Rights Suit

With print's growing reliance on advertising dollars to sustain itself, there has been much discussion on the blurring lines between advertising and editorial departments in newspapers. For the Minneapolis Star Tribune, dispute over one ad in particular stems not from a monetary perspective, but from one of equality and discrimination. According to an article in Editor & Publisher, the Star Tribune recently settled a law suit brought against it by GLBT Pride/Twin Cities after it refused to run an ad for a 2004 Gay Pride event in which a same-sex couple is seen kissing.

According to the article in Editor & Publisher,

The Star Tribune had agreed to be a sponsor of the gay pride event, but declined to run the ad, saying it violated its policy on community standards for ads.

The GLBT organization contended that by publishing ads of heterosexual couples kissing, but refusing to publish an ad showing a homosexual couple kissing, the paper was applying different standards to the ad than to those reflecting a heterosexual lifestyle.

With the prominence of advertising in newspapers, the question has arisen as to the power advertising plays on the role of the editorial department. However, in this case, it seems that an editorial decision was made in regard to the advertisement.

The vague statement that the ad, "violated policy on community standards for ads makes me question what exactly these community standards entail. I searched the Star Tribune's website but could not find any explicit mention of what the "community standards for ads" were. I did find the following statement on the site's page outlining the "Culture and Values" of the paper,

We strive to be honest, responsible and courageous in our relationships with the community we serve, and with each other.

The refusal to run this ad seems anything but courageous on the part of the Star Tribune. It seems odd that the paper would sponsor the gay pride event, but refuse to run an ad for it on the basis of "community standards". They obviously did not think that sponsorship of the event violated these standards. Therefore, the decision to not run the ad seems to be an editorial one, rather than one based on revenue.

While the discussion on such issues has focused mainly on the effect relationships with certain advertisers may have on editorial content, in this case it seems that an editorial decision was made to exclude the advertisement. The power of advertising over editorial is a growing concern. Yet, what should the editorial role be in terms of advertising? To what extent should a paper govern what advertisements it will or will not publish? Obviously, a paper would not and should not publish advertisements that promote hate or discrimination. However, by excluding advertisements reflective of certain lifestyles, is this in and of itself a form of discrimination?

Recent comments



Syndicate content